Even though we may know most of what happened in our parents’ lives, we usually know less about our grandparents’ lives and very little about our great grandparents because they were not around to tell us about it. Imagine if you knew the details of your ancestors lives that lived hundreds of years ago. The Old Testament of the Bible contains the history of what happened in the lives of the Israelites thousands of years ago. There are detailed accounts of how they came to live in the land we know as Israel and the names of their family members have become well known to millions of people around the world.
More people know the names Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob than probably any other names of individuals that have ever lived because the details of their lives are recorded in the Bible. One of the advantages of knowing the history of your ancestors is being able to know where you fit into their story and how your life will be impacting the lives of relatives that are yet to be born. Some of the things you do may not seem important now, but they could literally be changing the course of history for many years to come.
A key event in the life of Jacob was when he wrestled with God at Penuel the night before he was reunited with his brother Esau. It was at Penuel that Jacob’s name was changed to Israel and he received a special blessing; “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (Gen 32:28).
I’m pretty sure Gideon knew the significance of Penuel and chose to beat down the tower there to honor his great, great, great…grandfather Jacob. The interesting thing about Gideon’s stand at Penuel is that the victory he won after his arrival there seemed to be a turning point for him. His behavior was much more bold and courageous, perhaps as a tribute to or maybe even a result of Jacob’s blessing. In all, Gideon’s 300 soldiers defeated 135,000 Midianites. There is no way to account for the result except for divine intervention. The battle cry that was shouted as they entered the Midianite camp was “The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon” (Judges 7:18).
When Gideon’s conquest was completed, he confronted two kings of Midian named Zebah and Zalmunna. These two kings were directly responsible for the death of Gideon’s brothers who had probably fought against the Midianites in a previous war. The description of the men reveals that Gideon’s appearance had been transformed by his acts of courage. He was no longer the man who threshed wheat by the wine press to hide from the Midianites, but a leader, someone they respected. “Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna, What manner of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor? And they answered, as thou art, so were they; each one resembled the children of a king” (Judges 8:18).